CAPE COD DAY
3: Hyannis Harbor, Oceanographic Museum and Cataumet
Begin the day in Hyannis, the town made famous by the Kennedy clan. The Original Gourmet Brunch is a sure bet for breakfast. The restaurant on Hyannis' Main Street specializes in brunch foods and, in fact, serves nothing but brunch. In addition to offerings of eggs, quiches, pancakes and waffles, there are design-your-own omelets from a list of ingredients as long as your arm.
Catch a ride with the MV Liberty for a tour of Hyannis Harbor. The trip, which lasts around two hours, introduces visitors to the local wildlife, history of Hyannis and, of course, views of the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport. Alternatively, you can sign up for one of the whale watching tours that leave from Hyannis Harbor. (Note that most whale watching tours last 3-4 hours and do not guarantee whale sightings).
Grab lunch at Spanky's or one of the many other casual spots along the docks, which all feature fried seafood, salads and burgers. Here you can watch the ferries load and unload visitors to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket while enjoying the perfume of salty sea air. You may want to schedule time for an additional stop at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum.
After lunch head to Woods Hole via the town of Centerville, which is, depending on traffic, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Hyannis. Although not much of a tourist destination, Centerville is home to what Cape residents swear by as the best ice cream around. Four Seas Ice Cream is a Kennedy family favorite with rich, homemade ice cream in flavors from coffee to ginger to cranberry sorbet. In fact, the ice cream is so good, you might want to skip lunch and save the room for dessert!
Continue traveling southeast to Woods Hole, a New England town with a distinctly Californian vibe. Tie-dye is de rigeur here and is about as much a part of the landscape as the red trousers in Nantucket. The primary draw to Woods Hole is the Oceanographic Institute, one of the leading centers for the study of sea life in the world. Its staff, with the passion of Berkley tree huggers, works to protect the ocean's ecology through research and education. The Institute offers an exhibit center and gift shop that are open to the public and worth the stop. The nearby Woods Hole Science Aquarium offers a similar education with opportunities for hands-on learning. Popular with the youngest members of the family, the aquarium's "touch" tanks offer visitors the opportunities to handle horseshoe crabs, snails, rays and more.
From Woods Hole, take the short drive north for either of two of the Cape locals' favorite dining spots. For well-priced food with a bit of an international flair, try the Chapoquoit Grill. The restaurant does not take reservations, but an early arrival usually has little to no wait. Here you will find delicious wood fired pizzas and a lengthy list of specials from grilled halibut to roast duck. If seafood is your thing, then continue on to the sleepy village of Cataumet. Follow the curving road to the harbor, a sparkling oasis lively with locals. Here, you'll find the great New England tradition of the lobster roll. Although many Cape Cod restaurants offer renditions of this New England classic, locals know that the Chart Room in Cataumet is where you go for the real deal. The Chart Room lobster roll does not appear on the menu, but the lobster roll is probably the most-ordered dish at this casual, waterfront restaurant. Stuffed with over a pound of lobster meat, it is lightly dressed and tastes of the sea. Arrive before sunset to enjoy drinks at the outdoor bar and views of the boats, coming and going from the Cape Cod Canal.
Cape Cod is not known for its nightlife but if you plan ahead, you might finish dinner in time to catch a show at the College Light Opera in Falmouth. Or, if live music is your thing, try Liam Maguire's Irish Pub, also in Falmouth, where owner Liam performs several nights each week. For a nightcap, head back to Chatham via Route 6, (which at night is usually free of traffic), to catch last call at the Wequassett Inn's LiBAYtion beachside bar and celebrate the region's beauty with one final toast.
Notes: Cape Cod's high season runs from Fourth of July through Labor Day. A seasonal destination, most of the Cape's shops and restaurants are in full swing by the end of May and stay open for visitors through the end of October, but after Labor Day, visitors are advised to call ahead before making plans. Parking at many beaches is restricted to locals or fee-based during July and August. However, during the autumn months, the beaches are far easier to navigate.
During the high season, Cape Cod is rich with arts and culture. Both the Cape Playhouse in Dennis and the College Light Opera Company in West Falmouth offer professional summer stock performances nightly. The Cape Playhouse also offers an art house cinema and in Hyannis, the Melody Tent brings world class musical talent to a relatively intimate stage. You may want to check their calendars and purchase tickets well in advance as these venues are extremely popular with locals and visitors alike.
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